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One step away
June 8, 2024

Opinion: Incumbent vs. everyone else

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Photo by Photo courtesy of Jay Phagan

 Opinion columnist Kaelin Connor says the results of the Texas Primary could be swinging,

Texas primary elections have encroached on us and, again, it’s time to decide our fate.

There are common household names, but also new names, to be seen on this year’s ballot. The two names that will make it to the Nov. 2 ballot are in Texan voters’ hands. The political atmosphere in Texas has been rapidly changing in recent years and could lead to either an expected red state or, maybe, a surprise burst of blue. Only time will tell. 

Let’s talk about these possibilities.

Ranging from the House and Senate seats to school boards — expect these primary results to be dense. It’s a pretty wide spread of candidate types, and I’ll bet a whole bunch of voters won’t know half of the names. 

But, the main question is if former President Donald Trump’s approval still holds an impressive weight for these candidates. Attorney General Ken Paxton, Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick all garnered stamps of approval from the former president, but will it be enough? 

If you have ever taken an entry-level government class, then you’ll be familiar with the general rule of thumb that the incumbent always has the upper hand. They have the familiar name and easier access to campaign finances, government sources, etc. However, with a major emphasis on “however,” there’s always an exception. 

Who knows, maybe there will be some exceptions come Nov. 2.
Attorney general

It’s the race to grab your popcorn for.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, then you’ll be familiar with the drama that is Ken Paxton. There’s fraud, bribery, whistleblowers and a federal investigation. Sandwiched between is the uncertainty of his ability to uphold his position — or the legality. 
The opponents facing Paxton also pose a threat to his third term. Former Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman and, naturally, Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush both hold familiar names in their favor … and aren’t likely to become convicted felons in the near term. Then, there’s Rep. Louie Gohmert stuck in the middle. What is interesting is that these candidates’ campaign promises don’t swing too far away from Paxton’s. 

The catch? They aren’t him.

It wouldn’t be shocking if Texans don’t see a runoff for the Republican nomination.

Lieutenant governor

This race could be a swift and easy win for incumbent Patrick. 

His biggest threat is also his previous opponent, Mike Collier, who narrowly lost back in 2018. Collier has prioritized campaigning on re-establishing women’s rights, redesigning our energy grid and increasing public school funding. Meanwhile, other opponents, like Republican Aaron Sorellis, want to release the Texans imprisoned for the Jan. 6 insurrection and even posed the idea of secession. 

There’s not a whole lot of competition, but who knows? It could end up being a 2018 LSU versus Texas A&M kind of race.  

Patrick, regardless of political opinion, is a conservative bill-passing trailblazer, which draws the eyes of many conservative voters. However, Collier could come up with just the right amount of support to steal the seat.

Governor

A large focus is going to be centered around the gubernatorial election. Incumbent Abbott has received heat from both sides of the spectrum. Some cite he isn’t conservative enough, and a whole lot of liberals posit he’s too conservative. The great divide, if you will. 

There are recognizable Republican opponents who have made headway like former state Sen. Donald Huffines and retired Army Lt. Col. Allen B. West. Huffines has made promises, including finishing the border wall, preventing election fraud and banning vaccine mandates. West promises headway in preventing illegal immigration, abolishing property taxes and upholding pro-life legislation. However, as I mentioned, incumbents do have their own advantages. 

What will be most interesting is how Beto O’Rourke will favor this go-around. 

The gutsy former congressman takes his third go at succeeding to the throne after a narrow loss against Sen. Ted Cruz and an unsuccessful presidential primary attempt. For many in the Democratic party, he is a lost cause who should stop in his tracks. O’Rourke’s main problem is that he is campaigning as Willie Nelson in a George Strait state. 
It just won’t happen — not like this. It’s expected for O’Rourke to receive the Democratic nomination, but I’m doubtful he’ll gain anything more. 

Texas has been a red state since 1994. 

Democrats coming out guns blazing, or should I say the opposite, isn’t going to make Texan voters flip. It has to be gradual, and it has to be smart. Texas isn’t New York or Massachusetts, and candidates shouldn’t campaign as such. If the Democratic party is ever going to regain Texas’ majority again, it’s highly unlikely it’ll be because of O’Rourke’s strategies. 
Only time will tell if Trump’s approval of these three incumbents will be the reason for their potential success or strictly because of their past conservative moves. While Patrick and Abbott will most likely see their third terms, Paxton’s future is debatable. 
Before then, don’t let a common name be the reason for your vote. 

Research the candidate campaigns and backgrounds. Oftentimes, voting strictly based on a party isn’t the most effective way to elect officials you feel will do the best job. Just because they’re your affiliated party doesn’t mean they’ll carry out your priorities and wishes. 

The incumbents may have their advantages, but it’s ultimately up to us Texans to decide what’s best. 

Kaelin Connor is a psychology senior and opinion columnist for The Battalion.

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